Buying Buddha, Selling Rumi Orientalism and the Mystical Marketplace (by Sophia Rose Arjana)

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Max Johnson Dugan


Orientalism, Sufism, Mysticism, Religion & Popular Culture, Religious Consumption


In this topically and theoretically eclectic project, Sophia Rose Arjana analyzes the way that religious consumption perpetuates Orientalism. Arjana focuses on the consumption habits of Nones and New Agers, two amorphous groups linked by their avowed disregard for the strictures of religious traditions. She contends that their clothing, travel, and self-care practices commodify “the Orient” for Western consumers. Arjana terms this field of consumption the “mystical marketplace,” a network of symbols, figures, and objects that circulate non-Christian religious traditions to those desperate for enchantment. Within the mystical marketplace, tourism to Bali or Rumi translations stripped of their Islamic content (220-21) are not, as they might appear, means for learning from other religious traditions. Rather, the mystical marketplace in Buying Buddha, Selling Rumi dislocates religious symbols and entrenches Orientalism. Arjana’s postscript explicates her intention to expose the hegemonies—of whiteness, of coloniality, of Protestant normativity—which structure these forms of consumption. Her engaging concepts and case studies do just that, all in a broadly accessible register.

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